Metal promotion in heterogeneous catalysis requires nanoscale-precision architectures to attain maximized and durable benefits. Herein, we unravel the complex interplay between nanostructure and product selectivity of nickel-promoted In2O3 in CO2 hydrogenation to methanol through in-depth characterization, theoretical simulations, and kinetic analyses. Up to 10 wt.% nickel, InNi3 patches are formed on the oxide surface, which cannot activate CO2 but boost methanol production supplying neutral hydrogen species. Since protons and hydrides generated on In2O3 drive methanol synthesis rather than the reverse water-gas shift but radicals foster both reactions, nickel-lean catalysts featuring nanometric alloy layers provide a favorable balance between charged and neutral hydrogen species. For nickel contents >10 wt.%, extended InNi3 structures favor CO production and metallic nickel additionally present produces some methane. This study marks a step ahead towards green methanol synthesis and uncovers chemistry aspects of nickel that shall spark inspiration for other catalytic applications.